Archive for January 4th, 2016


by Sam Juliano

Boats for Papa is one of the year’s most wrenching picture books, and is one of the year’s most pictorially beautiful.  The fact that it was written and illustrated by a first timer is pretty astounding, but in the annals of children’s literature this is cause for celebration.  Two years ago Aaron Becker broke into the ranks with the magnificent Caldecott Medal winning Journey, and just this year we were treated to The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, the maiden effort by Julia Sarcone-Roach, but this field is normally dominated by artists well beyond their initial engagement.  Jessixa Bagley’s book is about love, loss and the inspiration to create, and during the telling of this marvelously spare story these themes intermingle to reach a common understanding that ultimately achieves a state of grace.  Prior reviewers have argued whether the book will resonate more with adults or children, but having shown the book to a number of fellow teachers and friends, and having read it to five first grade classes I can vouch for its effectiveness with both groups.  The kids are regularly taken by the young beaver’s resourcefulness, while adults will find it difficult not to tear up at the book’s denouement, when the truth is unveiled accidentally.

Spare storytelling is wed to soft pastel-like watercolor tapestries, a perfect artistic choice for a story set near the sea.  The beaver Buckley lives in a small wooden house off the beach (one of two first-class picture books that share the same setting, with the other In a Village by the Sea set in the Far East and featuring humans) with his mother. What they have by way of furnishings is scant, but Buckley pointedly notes they have each other, announcing immediately this is a drama about relationships.  After  mother and child walk towards their house on the sand we see the cut in panel showing the wooden floor and walls with a simple furnace/stove a window with held curtains, wall pictures, table and sink.  Buckley spends his time looking for things at the beach, and what is noticeable in the first double page spread are broken tree branches in abundance.  The term “busy as a beaver” couldn’t be more apt, as Buckley works with hands meticulously, constructing boats out of all the driftwood he can handle. (more…)

Read Full Post »

45 years

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rambling in masterful British drama “45 Years.”


Leonardo Di Caprio in raw and powerful “The Revenant”

by Sam Juliano

The annual lamentation that the holiday season has come and gone so quickly has again come to pass, as we are now four days into the New Year.  In the metropolitan area the temperature has dropped, but no precipitation of any kind.  This has been one of the mildest winters on record, but we do have a long way to go for sure.

Between late year movie viewings and a demanding Caldecott Medal Contender series, I have been spoken for, but at least all our outings have been with the entire family.  I would like to once again thank all those who have made the Caldecott series such a rousing success both at WitD and on social media, where the reviews have been shared by enthusiastic authors and illustrators.  I especially would like to thank Laurie Buchanan, Valerie Clark and Patricia Hamilton for their tireless promotion on FB, and to those who have regularly placed comments.  I will site everyone when the series completes this coming Sunday.  The awards will be announced Monday morning, January 11th. (more…)

Read Full Post »